Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wonderful People Doing Fabulous Things - Efficiency in California

Ontario is scrambling to chart out its energy future. The province is committed to ridding itself of its coal fired plants by the end of the decade, but it’s also spooked by the prospect of not having enough energy in the mix to satisfy the needs of its citizens in the years ahead.

So what’s to be done? A year ago, the province asked the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to report on the potential of conservation and renewable sources. After three months of poking its nosing around, the OPA concluded that, while conservation holds great promise, it “is not in a position to recommend long-term conservation targets at this time.”

In response, the Sierra Club invited to Ontario conservation proponents Arthur H. Rosenfeld, Commissioner of the California Energy Commission and Steve McCarty, Director, Demand-Side Resources of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, California’s largest utility provider.

Rosenfeld and McCarty met with Energy Minister Donna Cansfield and other representatives in the energy sector to discuss California’s success with energy efficiency and conservation. They also spoke at a public presentation on March 21 to a packed audience at City Hall, which included Jim Harris, leader of the Green Party, Peter Love, Ontario’s Chief Conservation Officer, and Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, to name a few.

Here are some highlights of some of the groundbreaking conservation efforts that the Californians presented….

Mr. Rosenfeld spoke first, providing some very interesting statistics on how California was doing on the conservation/efficiency front.

Mr. McCarty followed, discussing history, challenges and incentives. He also addressed the term ‘conservation’ vis-à-vis ‘efficiency’, defining the former as “doing with less” and the latter as “doing with the same, with less energy used”.

Some Stats
• Today, Californians on average consume about 7,000 kWh/person. New Yorkers are about the same. Comparatively, the average American consumes about 12,000 kWh. Californians save about $1000 per year (I’m sure New Yorkers save about the same).

• Of the 12,000 US average – the Blue States consume over 9,000 per person. The Red States consume 14,000. Interesting, hmm…?

• Ontarians consume about 11,000 kWh/person, just slightly below the US average.

• While the size of refrigerators in California have steadily increased since the 1950s, the energy used per unit has dropped by 75% since about 1975, from 1800 kwh/per year to just over 400.* The average price for a refrigerator dropped too, from $1270 to $462, thanks to improvements in manufacturing. This is an energy savings of a little over 200 billion kwh/year, just for refrigerators alone. Nuclear energy in California generates 750 billion kwh/year. $18 billion a year is saved from efficient refrigerators. $23 billion a year is spent on nuclear reactors in California. Please note that California is phasing out nuclear.

* According to the Union of Concerned Scientists in their 1999 book, The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, the average refrigerator in the USA uses 1,155 kWh/year.

To take a look at the Rosenfeld’s slides for more stats, visit

A Short History of Conservation and Efficiency in California
1970s – Conservation era began thanks to the energy crisis in the early 1970s. People were forced to do without. This was not a long term policy.

1980s – Demand-side Management. California experimented with load shifting. Load shifting is the ability to change the amount of energy used at any given time. It can be accomplished by turning off a piece of equipment; switching to internal, off-grid power generation sources; or operation of equipment during off-peak hours.

1990s – Energy Efficiency as a Resource. The utilities could see the economic value of efficiency, but there was a lack of general interest in it. So the utilities gave bonuses to their shareholders, and showed them that efficiency was profitable.

1998-2000 – Energy Efficiency Restructuring. The State decided to make the utilities cost market driven only. This was problematic for a number of reasons. It allowed power marketers to control prices by gaming the market. It gave generators incentives to hold power plants off the market. It failed to encourage long-term contracts. It didn't encourage large customers to reduce demand in response to high prices, and it allowed stakeholders to design the market rules.

2001 – Energy Crisis. There were fears of hundreds of hours of blackouts. This didn’t happen because Californians conserved.

2002 – Continued Uncertainty

2003 – Energy Efficiency as a Resource. California restarted its policy of efficiency as a policy.

Barriers to Conservation
McCarthy cites the major barriers to conservation and efficiency. They include imperfect information, consumer attitudes, limited access to capital, product lifecycles, electric rate distortions and regulatory uncertainty and externalities.

Encouraging Conservation
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company invests in education and outreach, energy audits, technical assistance, rebates, loans and research & development for alternative energy technologies. They also invest in a low-income program to ensure that low-income houses are energy efficient.

Some Conservation and Efficiency Measures
The California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission (CEC) have been testing the impact of Critical Peak Pricing on demand for two summers. Results for residential customers:
• 12% reduction when faced with critical peak prices and no technology
• 30% to 40% reduction for customers with air conditioning, technology, and a critical peak price.

The CEC has invested $10 million in white roofs that reflect the heat away from the home and reduce its energy load. They are setting the standard of standby power from 3 watts to half a watt. The state has also installed LED traffic lights, reducing the state’s need for electricity by 10 megawatts, which is enough to power 10,000 homes.

Other Measures
Solar Roof Program:
• Sacramento Municipal Utility District has been very innovative re: PVs and new construction.

• The Million Solar Roof Initiative had been introduced, but stalled, in California Legislature in 2005.

• California Public Utilities Commission has:
o Initially increased funding by $300 million for 2006 and reduced rebate levels to $2.80 per watt
o Adopted The California Solar Initiative providing nearly $2.9 Billion between 2007 and 2017 for incentives for PV and for solar thermal projects less than 1 MW

Near Future Plans for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company 2006 - 2008
Programs that will focus on reducing demand during peak periods:
• More efficient new air conditioners
• Advanced window systems
• Improved efficiency of existing air conditioning systems through better maintenance

Commercial and Industrial
• New lighting systems
• Chillers, motors, maintenance

New Construction
• Improved insulation and air-flow systems
• Automatic daylighting systems

Rosenfeld and McCarty’s message to the Ontario Minister of Energy is to slow down and plan well!

The Sierra Club paid for Rosenfeld and McCarty’s flights to Toronto. If you would like to contribute to the Sierra Club’s proactive efforts, please visit

1 comment:

Jim91 said...


Myth busting: The truth about energy efficiency at home

October 20, 2007

Ontarians have become increasingly savvy about their energy consumption patterns at home and have been taking steps to become more energy efficient. But with all the conservation information available these days, it is difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Peter Love, Ontario's Chief Electricity Conservation Officer, reveals the truth behind some of the most common energy myths.

Armed with this knowledge, look for ways you can make the lighting in your home energy efficient. Love points to the Ontario Power Authority's fall Every Kilowatt Counts program.

Consumers can redeem coupons in-store at a wide variety of retailers across Ontario for savings on ENERGY STAR-qualified residential light fixtures, and appliance and light control products such as motion sensors, dimmers and timers.

To help demystify some of the most common energy myths Love helps shed some light on the facts about energy efficiency at home:

Myth: I can't use CFL bulbs with dimmer switches or motion sensors

Fact: The selection of CFL bulbs are increasing. There are special CFL bulbs that are designed to work with a variety of lighting controls such as dimmer switches, motion sensors and timers, and some can even be used outdoors. CFL packaging tells you where and how the CFL can be used.

Myth: By dimming the lights, all dimmer switches allow you to reduce the amount of electricity and energy being used

Fact: Only new electronic dimmer switches actually reduce the amount of energy being used. Old rheostatic dimmer switches simply give the extra electricity off as heat, instead of light. If the dimmer is warm to the touch, it's not saving electricity.

Myth: All fluorescent tube lights are energy efficient

Fact: Smaller (2.5 cm or 1 inch diameter) T8 bulbs are 35 per cent more efficient than regular T12 (3.75 cm or 1.5 inch diameter) fluorescent tube lights.

For a list of participating retailers, more energy saving tips and to download Every Kilowatt Counts coupons, visit